Are Coalition Ground Troops Needed in Iraq and Syria?

Members of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, political and defence commentators, and retired military figures have been talking about ‘boots on the ground’

From a new contributor, Josh Hughes

Members of the US-led coalition fighting Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria, political and defence commentators, and retired military figures have been talking about ‘boots on the ground’, and whether coalition members should begin a large-scale ground offensive against IS, in addition to the ongoing air-strikes. Some, including NATO’s former Supreme Allied Commander in Europe, Admiral James Stravidis are advocating a significant role for coalition ground troops, in conjunction with the Kurdish Peshmerga and the Iraqi Army. The idea of a ground intervention results from the failure of the Iraqi army to stop the summer advance of IS in Iraq, and the inability of the western-backed rebel groups in Syria to contain IS and Jahbat Al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria, whilst fighting the Assad regime.

IS has managed to take and hold ground in Syria because there is no rebel opposition as effective as itself, and the Syrian Army are not aggressively targeting IS. The presence of IS means the west has targets other than the Assad regime, increasing the likelihood of regime survival.

Therefore, President Assad can play a long game, and remain in power. In Iraq, the IS rapid advance was accelerated by the Iraqi army and police fleeing in June, resulting in little resistance. Thus, the State forces one would initially hope to fight IS were not doing so, through acquiescence, or inability.

Thus, until local forces are in a position to fight IS effectively, there is an issue of how to continue fighting IS on the ground. Peshmerga backed by coalition airstrikes, weapons and training have so far been able to push back IS a limited distance, and contain their advances in Iraq, but not strike any decisive blows. Without rolling them back, IS territory could become what the Jordanian Foreign Minister describes as ‘Extremist-stan’.

There are fears that their territory could become, a terrorist safe haven and training ground, as with Afghanistan in the 1990’s and Somalia since the civil war.

Therefore an additional factor may be needed to swing the fight definitively against IS. However, the political will does not exist in coalition countries, due to war weariness, and fears of retaliation by IS for an intervention with ground troops, thus more creative options could be explored. Admiral Stravidis advocates a multi-force attack on IS, with Peshmerga engaging IS in the North, the Iraqi army engaging IS in central Iraq, and Coalition ground troops engaging IS in Syria, not the Syrian rebels which are currently being trained. Such an intervention is unlikely to occur, however. Intervention in Syria will inevitably lead to being sucked into their civil war, which political leaders are opposed to. It is this reason which also removes the possibility for States intervening to create ‘buffer-zones’, which some have advocated.

This would involve armies taking small areas in IS and Assad-controlled territory for civilians to escape conflict within, not only would this risk mission creep, but it also reminiscent of the failed safe-zones of Srebrenica. Alternatively, Afzal Ashraf of the Royal United Services Institute suggests using ‘boots with wings’, attacking IS with coalition paratroopers to push IS back, with Iraqi forces and Peshmerga holding the ground and fighting any IS insurgency remaining in towns.

In all three options, massive amounts of (currently non-existent) political will would be required, along with determination to intervene against public opinion, and are therefore they are unlikely to happen without a significant change of circumstance.

Most importantly, however, coalition ground troops are not wanted to fight in either Iraq or Syria. The Iraqi Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, stated at the beginning of October that defeating IS in Iraq could be performed by the Iraqi’s themselves with collation airpower. In Syria it is more complicated, but foreign troops are not wanted by commanders of the Free Syrian Army, unless they are committed to removing Assad as well as IS. Thus Stravidis’ idea must find another local force to take the place of coalition ground troops.

Kurdish fighters in both Syria and Iraq are well-motivated and have been pushing back the IS advance, with help from coalition airstrikes. However this has widely been acknowledged as not enough to defeat IS. Whilst there may be a large number of Iraqi-Peshmerga fighters, the Regional Kurdistan Government are unwilling to commit to advances outside of Kurdistan. Whereas Syrian-Peshmerga fighters are willing to take the fight to IS, but do not have the numbers, or equipment to deal decisive blows. Indeed, in the currently under-siege city of Kobane, the Kurdish fighters are unable to halt the IS advance through lack of heavy weaponry to defeat IS tanks and artillery, stolen from the Syrian and Iraqi armies.

However, Iraqi-Peshmerga and now being allowed by Turkey to reinforce and rearm the Syrian-Peshmerga in Kobane. This may stem the IS advance into Kobane, but does not take the fight to IS in their territories of central Iraq and Northern Syria.

In terms of ‘moderate’ rebel groups in Syria, they are being taken out of Syria to be trained in Turkey, after initial reports that training was to be carried out in Saudi Arabia. Rebels have also been trained in Jordan by the CIA, and are reportedly re-entering the Syrian battlefields. Thus, whilst the West can hope these rebel groups will both push back IS, and topple the Assad regime, they are an unknown quantity until they return to the battlefield, and therefore cannot yet be brought into an anti-IS strategy.

During the Islamist insurgency phase of the Iraq war, with many attacks performed by the group which preceded IS, al-Qaeda in Iraq, lots of Islamist and Shia militia fighters were pushed out of Iraq by tribal militias and the Iraqi army. In terms repeating the ‘Sunni Awakening’ of 2005, where Sunni tribes fought against al-Qaeda to liberate their towns, the opposite has been happening, to the benefit of IS. The IS rapid advance was accelerated by having little to no resistance from Sunni tribes, some of whom are supportive of IS.

This is because, the Shia-dominated Malaki government, security and intelligence services disenfranchised Sunni parts of Iraqi society by focussing on Shia issues, and reneging on promises to employ parts of the Sunni tribal militias and absorb them into State organs. This grievance of the Sunni minority resulted in at least tacit support for IS by many Sunnis, with IS being a mostly Sunni group, and many would rather risk rule under IS than accept a poor deal from the Malaki government. Attempts in the last weeks of the Maliki government to arm Sunni tribes to fight IS failed. However, more recently, several tribes have been cooperating against IS, after witnessing their brutal rule.

The El Bayaa tribe have been fighting with Kurdish forces in the North, and several tribes have been cooperating with Government forces. The Jaghaifa and Albo Nimr tribes in Anbar have been cooperating, along with groups such as Albu Alwan, Albu Fayad, Albu Esa, Albu Shaban and Albu Khalifa. If these tribes continue to cooperate, it is possible that their militia fighters could act as the ground troops to expel IS from central Iraq with coalition air support.

Despite initially failing to fight IS adequately in the summer, the Iraqi army could have a place in removing IS. Following their disintegration, the Iraqi army has been staging a significant turn-around. The 17th division has pushed IS from Baghdad, and beyond some suburbs. The army is being re-organised with Saddam-era officers brought in to replace the inexperienced young officers who fled the IS advance. Whilst this may not be an ideal situation, it is expected to go some way towards producing a well-functioning Iraqi army capable of taking the fight to IS. Thus, whilst Peshmerga fighters concentrate on removing IS from the North of Iraq, Sunni militia fighters, in conjunction with the re-constituted Iraqi army can expel them from central Iraq. Thus at the moment coalition ground troops are not needed in Iraq, and will not be needed if the mix of Peshmerga, Sunni militia and Iraqi army can defeat IS in Iraq.

Syria is more complicated, as any intervention would probably drag participating States into the Syrian civil war, is unlikely to happen.

Therefore, Syria-Peshmerga are likely to be helped by the West to fight IS in the North. With Iraqi-Peshmerga reinforcements aiding their Syrian cousins in Kobane, it could be facilitated for both Peshmerga to move further into Syria to fight IS, should they be successful in liberating Kobane and pushing IS back. As the ‘moderate’ rebel groups will continue to return from training in other countries, they will hopefully enable a larger response to IS in Syria, though this will likely be mitigated by rebels also fighting the regime.

Thus, whilst there is a feasible opposition in Iraq to IS, there is not in Syria. If we assume that a politically risky intervention by foreign powers will not happen, only the Peshmerga and rebel groups are willing to fight IS. The Syria army are unwilling to fight IS, because if they crush IS, every rebel group who was fighting IS will turn their fire on the regime, creating a lower likelihood that the Assad regime will survive.

Therefore, whilst it is possible that a multi-force offensive on IS in Iraq could be successful, there is less likelihood of success in Syria as there are simply less forces to fight it. Ergo, IS could feasibly continue to exist in Syria for some time, unless the Syrian-Peshmerga and rebel groups can defeat them, or the Iraqi multi-force offensive continues into Syria to remove IS completely.

In addition, although there was criticism of their employment during the Iraq war, Private Military Contractors (PMCs) could be employed in limited humanitarian roles where anti-IS forces cannot act, as suggested by former-Blackwater CEO Erik Prince. PMCs could be tasked with specific goals, such as evacuating civilians for endangered towns, aid convoys, or defence of strategic positions where there are gaps in anti-IS lines or capabilities.

As PMCs work for those with the largest cheque book, they would not necessarily have to work for a government in their action, they could be funded by rich Syrians, Iraqis and Kurds, or even charities. In 2005, Sam Bells’ ‘Genocide Intervention Network’ of college students and volunteers came very close to hiring a PMC to monitor the situation in Darfur. The leap from a charity attempting to monitor a conflict through a PMC, to a group protecting civilians through a PMC is not great.

Whilst some will feel the employment of PMCs into the campaign against IS is morally and ethically wrong, there is a role which they could play, and could relieve civilian suffering if played well. However, this would require a significant change in the process of warfare, with wealthy individuals and groups engaging directly in conflicts. As there have been no indications of such action so far in this conflict, it is unlikely, but not impossible, that such a private intervention could happen.

In conclusion, there is currently not a need for coalition ground troops in Iraq. Kurdish Peshmerga in the North, and Sunni militias cooperating with the Iraqi army in the centre of Iraq could potentially push back IS with assistance from coalition air power.

However, in Syria, the defeat of IS requires Syrian-Peshmerga and coalition-trained rebel groups to take on both IS and the Assad regime simultaneously, thus there is a lower likelihood of success.

This could create a need for extra anti-IS troops, which are unlikely to be Western, as the West wishes to avoid being dragged into the Syrian civil war, thus the anti-IS force in Iraq could feasible advance into Syria to remove IS, and then withdraw.

Additionally, there may be a role for PMCs to play in the fight against IS, but to avoid the controversies of the Iraq war, they should be limited to specific humanitarian goals, or temporarily filling in holes in the anti-IS forces. Thus, as the situation stands at the moment, there is no need for coalition ground troops to be deployed into either Iraq or Syria to fight IS, but dealing with IS in Syria may require more force than can be amassed by Syrian-Peshmerga and moderate rebels.

24 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
John Hartley
John Hartley
November 4, 2014 6:03 pm

At the start of the Syrian civil war, the Assad regime had a referendum on political reform. When it was passed, Hague denounced it & the Americans followed. That was stupid , stupid, stupid. We should have given it a cautious welcome. Said we saw it as a first step. We might have had a national unity government & avoided a lot of bloodshed. Still we are where we are. UK troops in Syria & Iraq is a non starter. The public would not stand for it, the Treasury cannot afford it.
However, I would be tempted to give 20-25 CVR-T to the Kurds & the same again to the Iraqi Army. A few UK instructors in country, would be needed. I would not be against a few AAC Apache helicopters being based in Iraq. (We probably should keep a few in Afghanistan as well).

monkey
monkey
November 4, 2014 6:45 pm

@Josh
Very good summation of the situation over in Syria and Iraq . Assad will indeed let the various forces slaughter each other while he regroups and rebuilds his forces as best he can. In terms of what we that is the Nations who have provided support so far to the forces aligned against IS , we are pretty much on the right track both politically and militarily. Similar to the initial campaign in Afghanistan that ousted the Taliban by providing the air power and the Northern Alliance the ground power the defeat of a extremist religious force was completed with minimal casualties to the Western powers. Involving our ground troops operating from fixed bases against an enemy who blends in with the civilians around them and fights with no thought to the ‘rules of war’ that bind us is just asking for body bags to start flooding home as IS choose to make us their primary target. They are no averse to suicide attacks in all its forms making them difficult to stop.

TAS
TAS
November 4, 2014 9:38 pm

Josh,

A thoughtful and insightful piece. I’m currently heavily involved in these operations at a high level so it’s good to finally see a thoughtful piece of open-source work that doesn’t have a Single Service agenda.

There are a number of issues that you have missed, I believe, that are worthy of addressing. The solution to countering ISIL is not military one. It has to have its support cut out from under it, and that means countering the ideology, removing funding sources and disincentivising foreign fighters. And you have to offer those compelled to fight for ISIL’s cause an alternative, which can only be a stable state. I’ve seen a lot of research from the region that highlights what many of the tribes want – security. And to do that, you have to ensure that the state itself is stable. A western coalition intervention on the ground will emasculate the Iraqis and risk shattering what little cohesion is left.

The way ahead, militarily, is to stiffen the Iraqis, give then spine and bolster their forces to take on ISIL. Coalition air strikes give the ISF reach and power over ISIL when the latter choose to fight as a conventional force. The Iraqis are having successes now, which with Western (mostly US) support will start to yield benefits and boost morale across the ISF. One the Iraqis have shown that ISIL’s ability to hold ground is weak, ISIL will cede ground and the action moves to an internal security/police issue within a stable, inclusive Iraqi state.

So a clear strategy on Iraq exists. Syria will not be resolved until a way ahead emerges on how Syria is to be governed. I think JH is right – we should not have been so quick to cast down Assad, because we have now committed Syria to a long, bloody civil war, amidst the confusion of which ISIL has leaped to prominence because it offered ordinary Syrians security – brutal security, but security nonetheless. As time has passed the sickening brutality of ISIL has become clear. But yet again, a western coalition of foreign fighters on the ground in Syria is not going to solve anything – it will stoke and inflame the situation. Find the solution to the Syrian problem, find the way ahead on a stable Syrian state and then all support for ISIL will melt away, and they become just another bunch of murdering thieving power-seeking despots who can be dealt with by state security apparatus.

The Middle East tends to destabilise only when we poke it with a western stick. Please do keep up the good work Josh, really looking forward to hearing more.

Think Defence
Admin
November 4, 2014 9:55 pm
Reply to  TAS

But would it not be fair to say that we didnt poke sticks in the Middle East before the Syrian civil war kick off and rise of ISIS, I thought the former had nothing to do with any Western stick poking and the latter because the US chose to leave Iraq (fairly enough I think)? How far back do you want to go with the stick poking thing, back to the turn of the century?

And how many billions have been spent on the Iraqi Army, hard to justify more when that exact same thing has yielded very little over many years/

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 4, 2014 10:31 pm

@Josh

An interesting and informative read cheers, I have some questions regarding the use of PMC’s.

‘there may be a role for PMCs to play in the fight against IS, but to avoid the controversies of the Iraq war, they should be limited to specific humanitarian goals, or temporarily filling in holes in the anti-IS forces.’

If we use them would charities and NGO’s be willing to be protected by them considering their current reputation and what this may do to their donor money once it got out in the press?

If we use them as a private army to keep our boots off the ground, what political motivation is their to stop them being paid by Assad’s regime once IS is defeated and they are unemployed?

Will using them not hasten our involvement on the ground as the population start to ask why the western governments are using mercenaries to fight a war? especially with all the problems as to what laws they obey and political motivations they follow etc (again recent reputation)? would it be fair to say it is illegal to fight for IS but not Blackwater?

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 4, 2014 10:45 pm

Not exactly Western stick poking but just saying, who may have wanted a proxy war in Syria, to isolate Iran in the region? Who (else) may have wanted exactly that to happen so that Hamas would be semi-isolated by definition. Why does Turkey want so badly the current regime to fall in Syria; maybe something to do with rivalry about the regional hegemony (with Iran, again).

If the Green Revokution in Iran had proceeded, we would have both that country and Syria looking more like Turkey (rather than what they look like now).

Isolate ISIL (just like TAS says) and provide enough support to put some backbone into the local armies… Plus do some target practice while it all lasts.

SG2
SG2
November 5, 2014 3:55 am

No logical reason need be. The West is the enemy. All that is wrong in the world is due to the Great Satan and the Jewish Illuminati and their CIA lackeys. Such is the usual spiel one gets from folk of a certain creed no matter what. So any action taken should be on the understanding that it will be decried anyhow and no gratitude of any sort should be expected.

In other news the Singaporeans are joining the ball with a Stratotanker and an intel team. Is the US really that hardup for AAR and intel assets?

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 5, 2014 7:54 am

ISIL will not be defeated by airpower (no ground force ever has been).

The issue is whether local forces are up to the task. If ISIL does not continue to grow then there is a chance of this. If it does keep growing and manages to consolidate a good chunk of its current gains then western govts are going to have to decide whether to act or merely hope.

Ace Rimmer
November 5, 2014 8:26 am

Why should it be Western boots to sort out the mess created by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Iran? If they’re so determined to either rid the world of or support Assad, why can’t they put thousands of their own troops in harms way? As so many of them have been taught from birth that its a guaranteed way to paradise, I’m sure they won’t be short of volunteers from within their own ranks.

Our interests in the region should be the support and maintenance of the stability of Jordan as a nation, a major regional ally, maintenance of the flow of oil from Iraq to support British economic power, and maintenance and support of humanitarian camps on the periphery. Outside of this, what is our need for direct involvement?

I accept that we have a responsibility because of our recent involvement in Iraq, however, given that our supposed allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar are deeply involved behind the scenes, any action by us may be counterproductive and in direct opposition to their machinations. Despite the tragedy of the situation, I believe what we’re doing now is the most we should do or hope to achieve.

Hohum
Hohum
November 5, 2014 10:03 am

The Assad love seen in some quarters is pretty tiresome, his regime is as unpleasant as ISIS as the flattened suburbs of Damascus, photographic evidence of tortured and starved prisoners and barrel bombs attest to. Frankly, letting IS and Assad kick the crap out of each other is something we should seriously consider encouraging.

As for ISIS itself, the great thing about its ideology is that it pursues constant conquest, it has no stop line, it will thus eventually run into somebody in the region with the will and resources to properly crush it- be that the Iranians, Turks or Israelis. I fail to see why the West should be fighting the Middle East’s wars for it.

I might however recommend a British Jihadi relocation agency, turn up at Heathrow- hand over your passport and get a free one-way flight to Ar-Raqqah. The Caliph is waiting for you.

A final less light-hearted note: remember this, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi may appear to be humorous caricature of tyranny but this is a man who has been fighting against the US and Iraqi militaries for a decade, he took the shattered remnants of AQ in Iraq and turned them into a fighting force that now controls a swathe of territory from the Turkish border to the suburbs of Baghdad and that by Middle Eastern standards has shown impressive combat prowess. He did all of this with little in the way of allies. This is not an entity to be trifled with.

Martin
Editor
November 5, 2014 11:13 am

I don think ISIS is the real problem here. Nor the major security threat. The real issue is the bloody never ending civil war that’s killed 500,000 people and lead to hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing to Europe.

The only way to defeat ISIS is in Syria and the on,y force capable of doing that is Assad. Like it or not his forces represent a large chunk of the population. The first priority needs to be to end the war in Syria then use Assads forces no the FSA to jointly take our ISO, Maybe even get the Russians and Chinese onboard and stop varying about what Saudi and others think.

The last thing Europe can afford right now is a large influx of ME refugees and in the long run that influx will have far bigger security issues that some guys killing reporters on YouTube.

Hohum
Hohum
November 5, 2014 11:34 am

Martin,

If Assad could beat ISIS he would being showing signs of being able to do it by now. Instead his regime is showing severe signs of stress, it has gone all in and has little to show for it. Despite occasional local victories his forces continue to lose ground and suffer significant attrition to their key combat capability (air force and Armour losses have been horrific), he has effectively ceded the entire Eastern part of the country and is under severe pressure in the north and south of the Western part. He is increasingly dependent on Iranian and Russian support for materiel and finance and on Hezbollah (who have found it a chastening experience by all accounts) for active combat operations in addition to a mix of various militias which are increasingly slipping from his control.

Just in recent months ISIS has taken two gas fields and several bases from the regime and is seemingly on the advance in Homs. Syria is a mess, it is no longer an identifiable country but a vision of chaos and violence that makes Mad Max look like a documentary. Applying any form of pressure to this toxic mix, irrespective of intentions, is only likely to further stir the pot.

As for wanting Assad to win against IS, the only difference between the two is the former at least, albeit half-heartedly, tries to hide his crimes against humanity. Of the circa 200,000 killed in the Syrian civil war thus far most were killed by the regime.

Martin
Editor
November 5, 2014 2:56 pm

@ Hohum – not arguments from me about the regime but no one on the ground other than maybe IS seems to have the ability to win this one. so it’s do a peace deal or suffer several decades of war as far as I can see.

Dan
Dan
November 5, 2014 3:50 pm

Are western troops needed on the ground, and the answer is what is your aim as an end point.

Iraq does not seem to be in a position to reoccupy the Sunni provinces at present but it does seem to be able with Western air strikes to prevent IS from coming further forward. If Iraq required western ground troops to reoccupy the Sunni provinces it would then require continued western ground troops to maintain an occupation both to stop IS coming back, and prevent the Shia Militias taking revenge in the Sunni provinces and continuing the underlying sectarian civil war.

In Syria we made the mistake very early of demanding the overthrow of the Assad regime but not being willing to deliver force to make it happen, so we have had large numbers of various opposition forces which may have started as peaceful protesters but quickly became various militias whose role was to fight and die and demand western intervention. There was no possibility they could win against a regime that had been entrenched for decades and still had some level of internal and external support.

By not being honest from the beginning that we were not going to intervene, we gave false hope to internal and exile opponents to demand discussions based on the false perspective that Assad had to go first. The result has been years of war, a country with IS at the extreme but Al-Nusra Front then becomes moderate and various Islamic extremist groups are thought of as almost western it is nonsense. The Lebanese civil war lasted over 15 years over that time saw major boots on the ground intervention by both Israel and Syria for many years, and western powers for a year or two.

At present the likeliest option is ongoing bloodshed for a very long time and a refugee crisis of enormous proportions.
Assad winning based on cut off supplies to the opposition and air strikes on the extreme parts of the opposition, is possible.
Extreme opposition winning and mass slaughter in revenge of alewives across Damascus is possible.
Moderate secular opposition taking over holding free and fair elections and electing nice moderate secular candidates after years of bloodshed, is a fairy story.
Western intervention is possible if we are up for 1-200,000 occupation force for a decade or two, and I don’t think so.

Not a Boffin
Not a Boffin
November 5, 2014 4:57 pm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-29916620

Deep, deep, joy. The literal interpretation of “something must be done”……

DavidNiven
DavidNiven
November 5, 2014 5:01 pm

Who’s going to place any bets that we stop there?

NB those Kurds look better equipped than we were when we invaded Iraq!

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 5, 2014 5:47 pm

I feel a second round of questioning coming around in the US Congress:

“It looks like the Army has lost track of 250.000 assault rifles;How is that possible?”

John Hartley
John Hartley
November 5, 2014 7:33 pm

Did a brilliant post that the system ate. Cannot be bothered to retype it, but my final point for Syria to end the bloodshed, is to go back to a cold war solution & partition the country. Half for the Alewites, Kurds & Christians. The Sunnis in the other half. The alternative is endless civil war.

ArmChairCivvy
ArmChairCivvy
November 5, 2014 8:39 pm

@JH, I agree. So much as to have said it here in the first half of this year (the thread I already forget).
– it will tear chunks off Lebanon in the same process, may be to the better for the long term stability of that country

Ace Rimmer
November 6, 2014 8:06 am

JH, I also agree, given that we created many of the countries in the region by simply drawing a line across a map, the areas are breaking down along ethnic borders without an effective national holding together the geographically agreed ones. I’d go for a Balkans style partition with new states being defined along ethnic and tribal regions.

At least this way, a form of national ‘ghettoism’, would allow the differing ethnic groups to consolidate into friendly areas and hopefully cut down on sectarian strife…..or is this just my wishful thinking?!

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 6, 2014 1:45 pm

…the fly in the tribal partition ointment is that although Caliph Ibrahim is rooted in the Sunni tradition and in consequence attracted the support of some Sunni tribes…not least because of the Shia sectarianism of the last Baghdad Government…he is not a tribal leader, and emphatically does not aspire to lead a Sunni tribal coalition. He is an Islamic universalist committed to creating a united Ummah whose explicit aims include dealing with Shia “heresy”, and converting, killing or enslaving everybody else…with the exception of the members of the other Abrahamic faiths who can be tolerated provided they accept an explicitly second-class status and pay a punitive poll tax. He hasn’t got on to a levy of children to train as janissaries or harem concubines yet as far as I know, but I wouldn’t personally rule it out…

In those circumstances, tribal partition might create a cease-fire whilst the warring parties consolidate and reorganise…but will not achieve even a heavily-armed and truculent peace whilst-ever Ibrahim or his successor(s) are still breathing and dishing out orders.

GNB

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
November 6, 2014 10:22 pm

No slave-soldiers (yet)…but if the BBC is to be believed the Caliphate are now targeting refugees in their early teens; a chilling interview from a boy of 13 hoping to “behead infidels” some time soon…

A very glum Gloomy

Obsvr
Obsvr
November 7, 2014 6:06 am

@ DN “NB those Kurds look better equipped than we were when we invaded Iraq!”

Uhgh? Clearly you need extensive education in military equipment and its capabilities.

As for the Kurds generally, they have form, very nasty form. Back in Ottoman days it was the Kurds that the Ottomans turned to when they wanted the really dirty work done. Need a bit of massacreing? The Kurds were the guys for the job.